*Disclaimer: This article is intended to share my personal experience only.
Overwhelmed. In denial. Filled with fear.
7 years ago I was just that.
I was 23, battling an alcohol addiction and I was engaging in all sorts of self-sabotage that I brushed off as early twenties behavior — bad diet, partying and going out all the time.
I knew I had a problem but I wasn’t an “alcoholic.”
I mean those were the homeless men under the bridge, right?
I was a young woman from an upper middle-class family who never got in trouble in her life (OK…maybe a traffic ticket or two).
So, I couldn’t be an alcoholic… right?
While I could take you through the depths of my rock bottom I want to instead share with you what happened right before and right after I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic.
Because while the media does an amazing job of showing messy rock bottoms with shows like Intervention and 20/20 specials — we don’t often hear or see what happens after people get sober.
Fresh out of college and living in New York City, I was pursuing an acting and theater career by day and partying with my friends by night. While my friends were able to go out and have a few drinks…my nights rarely ended there.
I tried every way I could to control my drinking and desperately tried to explain it away and figure out why my drinking brought me to a bottom that my friends around me never reached…until the excuses ran out and I was left with a truth I did not want to face… that I was an alcoholic.
It’s funny, the first time I said it out loud I thought I would feel immense shame but it had the opposite effect… I felt free.
The more I said it and the more I worked on my recovery and meeting other recovering alcoholics I realized that what was holding me back before was that I was fighting not my addiction, but the label of it. A label I thought would humiliate me was the best gift I could have ever given myself.
Once I said I was an alcoholic (and I believe alcoholic and addict are essentially interchangeable) my entire world opened up. I was given a sense of freedom I had never felt before.
This freedom meant that I…
1. No longer had to hide my drinking and try to pretend I could “handle” it
2. Could ask for the serious help I so desperately needed
3. No longer had to deal with the cutting shame that came every morning after a blackout thinking of all the damage I had done the night before
4. No longer had to fear seeing or talking to friends the day after a night out wondering if I said or did something that I was going to regret
5. No longer had to lie to my boss about being sick when I was really hung over
6. No longer had to worry about how I’d get home at night
7. No longer needed to keep track of all the lies I was telling
8. Was finally able to accept that drinking, for me, wasn’t going to make my life any better and that having the disease of addiction was nothing to be ashamed of
One thing I learned the minute I started to meet other recovering alcoholics and addicts was that sobriety is not just about putting down the drinking and drugs.
It’s so much more than that.
It’s about being present, letting go of the ego and learning to live life on life’s terms.
It’s about doing the right thing, cultivating strong relationships and loving yourself for exactly who you are.
My life today is not perfect but it is beautiful.
Instead of holding me back, sobriety has given me wings.
If you are curious and wondering if I feel like I’m “missing out because I don’t drink” my answer is no, not anymore.
Early sobriety gave me clarity on all the things I missed out on when I was drinking.
I realized early on that everyday sober is another opportunity to do all the things I want to do — some of which I haven’t even dreamed of yet and that makes me feel incredibly grateful.
Originally published at medium.com